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Meet America's Newest National Master!

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Melandro Singson (right) in the game that earned him the National Master title!
Melandro Singson (right) in the game that earned him the National Master title!
Congratulations to Melandro Singson who won the Richard Morris Open with a perfect score of 5/5! Winning the tournament also made Singson America's newest National Master, putting him over 2200 for the first time with a new rating high of 2211. Congratulations, Melandro!

Singson went into the final round knowing that a win would guarantee him outright first place. He had black against Gregg Fritchle (2116) but seemed to be on the back foot after his Hedgehog style opening gave white a pleasant advantage. Indeed, white had a dangerous looking pawn supported by three pieces and black started sacrificing material to try to make something happen. White should probably not have allowed black to capture his h2 pawn, which gave black all sorts of counter play on the dark squares. White returned some of the material to try to slow black down, and indeed he was still up the exchange at the end of the game. However, his king was wide open and was ruthlessly hunted down by Singson's queen, bishop, knight and pawn. Fritchle resigned one move before mate.

On board 2, Craig Faber (2152) had white against Simon Slutsky (1815) and employed his trademark London System. Despite managing to wedge an uncomfortable pawn on e5, white struggled to make any kind of breakthrough. In fact, his pawns being on dark squares were rather awkward in the endgame given that his only remaining minor piece was his dark squared bishop vs black's knight that was better suited to the closed position that resulted. In the end, both players agreed to a draw when it was clear neither could make any progress. The result is a fantastic one for Slutsky, who saw a massive rating gain of 104 points to jump from 1815 to 1919! Faber had to settle for a share of second place with five other players.

Matthew Hayes (2078) faced off against Joey Perez (1810) on board 3. After a strange opening, a French style structure arose and Hayes, who had white, sacrificed a pawn to try to gain time against black's slightly slow development. The pawn sacrifice was probably not 100% sound but presented black with a problem as to where to put his king. Black's decision to castle queenside therefore made some sense but partly justified the pawn sacrifice as Hayes was able to use the half open b-file. Black's knight found itself in a horrible pin against his queen and a blunder allowed Hayes to win the pawn back and open things up even more. Black resigned when faced with the loss of either his queen or being down two pieces. The result meant Hayes shared second place and reached a new rating high of 2088.

On board 4, Daniel Manahan (1915) took on Tom Zapanta (2007) with both players knowing a win would at least guarantee a share of second place. Zapanta sacrificed a pawn and, at one stage, looked to have some compensation by way of his passed d-pawn. Unfortunately for him, Manahan - who had black - started creating threats of his own and was able to advance his c-pawn to the second rank. This spelled big trouble for white whose dark squared bishop controlled the c-pawn's queening square but could not directly attack the pawn. White was forced to resign when the threat of queening became too much. This was an excellent tournament for Manahan and takes his rating up to 1938.

Aside from Slutsky's draw with Faber on board 2, there were a few other upsets. Ryan Chen (1798) capped off a fine tournament by drawing with expert Randy Hough (2012). As Chen had already beaten two other experts in earlier rounds, he gained a huge 80 rating points in the tournament to take his new rating to 1878, easily his highest ever. Congratulations, Ryan!

The evening's other two big shock results came courtesy of Brian Phillips (1259), who beat Bob Head (1484), and Brian Chen (1218) who scored a massive upset by downing Jeff Schroeder (1763).

The Richard Morris Open saw several players make large rating gains, notably the aforementioned Simon Slutsky who gained 104 points (1815 to 1919), Ryan Yang who gained 82 points (1361 to 1443), and Ryan Chen whose rating increased by 80 points (1798 to 1878). By far the biggest gain, however, was made by Brian Chen, whose rating went from 1218 to 1428, a massive increase of 210 points! Indeed, the gain was so big that Chen's result puts him in second place on our list of all time rating gains in a single tournament. Congratulations to Brian and all of our big gainers!

We start a new year and a new tournament on January 6. The Winter Open will be a five round, three section tournament. This coming year will see some changes to the schedule with some multi section tournaments and at least one rapid tournament.